The NFL quarterback position is the most heralded in all of sports. Quarterbacks control the game, placing them on a pedestal or made the goat. Regardless, everyone is looking for this person to lead. With this responsibility, it’s fun to decide who is great and who is not so great, but what about the greatest? Some have been labeled greatest or even just great without earning it.
In order to make this list you need to be defendable. Someone, somewhere (likely bar setting) has made your case for being great. Some QBs are who they are and they should not be subjected to criticism. Jim McMahon was never the reason the Bears won, he just made sure they didn’t lose. Few debate this and few (if any) insinuate he is the greatest of all time. Same goes for Trent Dilfer – right place, right time. Also, not winning a Super Bowl doesn’t make you overrated. Dan Marino is properly rated as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Who is hard to measure? Steve Young for one, but he has some pretty impressive stats and did fill in some pretty big shoes.
An honorable mention also goes to Eli Manning. He has won two Super Bowls and has thrown a lot of touchdowns. Manning has also been inconsistent and responsible for many losses. Manning just misses this list – he is overrated by many, but many also think he sucks, so it really evens out.
We’re looking for longevity, quarterback ratings and team success here. We don’t look at post-career work or drunken kiss proposals. Here are your 10 most overrated quarterbacks of all time:
10. Phil Simms
Phil Simms led the New York Giants to a Super Bowl and was named Super Bowl MVP. He had a great season, but the most telling piece of the Simms puzzle is a couple of years later. He was putting up good stats and then got injured. Jeff Hostetler came in and led the Giants to a Super Bowl win. The Giants were a team built on defense. It’s quite possible any average quarterback could have stepped in and won with that team. Simms was named to only two Pro Bowls over his entire career and has a career completion rate of 55%. His quarterback comparison during his top years (1984-88) is Jim Everett, a guy more famous for being called out by Jim Rome.
9. Joe Thiesmann
Joe Thiesmann was amazing in 1982 and 1983, leading the Washington Redskins to the Super Bowl both seasons (winning one and losing one). Prior to that, he was an okay quarterback that liked to pose with his shirt off. He also has an amazing head of hair. In 1985, his career was shortened by Lawrence Taylor, who essentially snapped his leg on national television. A shortened career doesn’t help his numbers and he really had only two great seasons that were aided by a great running game. Redskin fans believe Thiesmann is the greatest of all time, but the reality is that he compares to Trent Green and has a career passing rating of only 77.
8. John Elway
If it wasn’t for his final two seasons, John Elway would have been a punch line. After several seasons of making it to the playoffs, only to get demolished in the big game, it was turning into a guarantee until the Broncos beat the Packers in 1998. In addition to his two Super Bowl wins, Elway was known for his fourth quarter comebacks, always finding the “magic” to pull off a win within minutes or seconds remaining on the clock. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately you can’t be one of the greatest of all time (which many place Elway) when you are a loose cannon with a career passer rating of 79. Oh, and the comebacks? Well, who do you think put the team down in the first place?
7. Michael Vick
Already a human highlight reel in college and continued when he joined the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons got to watch their team on Sportscenter each night because Michael Vick always did something amazing. Unfortunately, this never translated in terms of winning. Vick was a quality starting quarterback from 2002-05, but was already showing a decline when he was indicted for raising and training dogs to fight. He can no longer run, his passing isn’t strong and his decision-making capabilities are questionable at best. Vick has not had a good NFL career and it’s surprising he’s still hanging out on NFL benches. His QB rating of 80 isn’t half bad, but that’s only because he really hasn’t played much after a couple decent years.
6. Doug Flutie
One of the greatest college and Canadian quarterbacks of all time, Doug Flutie was never that good in the NFL. At times he was efficient and that’s the best that can be said. For anyone that makes comparisons to Drew Brees or other elite quarterbacks, they should really do their research first. A Heisman Trophy winner for Boston College, Flutie threw one of the most famous “hail mary” passes of all time. In the NFL, his amateur skills translated to a 54 percent completion rate and only 86 touchdowns for his entire career. Despite these pedestrian numbers, each place he went (Buffalo, San Diego to name two) Flutie was considered as a potential savior. Unfortunately he just didn’t have the talent to deliver. Remember Flutie Flakes? I had a bowl of these once … one word – overrated.
5. Jim Plunkett
Also a Heisman Trophy winner, Jim Plunkett was the quarterback for two Raiders Super Bowl wins. We know about Raider fans – they are the guys that all appear to be on a work release program and never went back. Plunkett was a hard-hat, lunch-bucket type quarterback, so they liked him, to the point where they placed him as a great quarterback. Plunkett was not a great NFL quarterback. Adequate at best, he did his best to steer the Raiders success that was anchored by a great defense (Howie Long, Lester Hayes), a running game (Marcus Allen anyone?) and rumored rampant drug use (steroids, cocaine, etc.).
4. Randall Cunningham
In today’s game we have quarterbacks that can do it all. They can scramble, throw and run the ball. Cunningham was one of the first “video game” quarterbacks, the guys that you never took your eye off of because you didn’t know what great act they were going to perform next. The legend of Cunningham has grown over the years, but he only actually had three good seasons (1990, 1992 and 1998). The knock wasn’t his reckless running, but his arm, averaging only seven yards a pass for his career. The problem is how Eagle fans regard Cunningham, believing had they given him more weapons they would have won during his time. The truth is Cunningham was more of a stat-padding quarterback that most won’t admit.
3. Brett Favre
If longevity and “iron man” status makes a quarterback the greatest of all time, well then please remove Brett Favre from the list (my assumption is that Cal Ripken Jr. is your all-time greatest baseball player). Here’s the thing about Favre: for one, he threw a lot of interceptions (many in late-game situations), so to be labelled as one of the greatest of all time, that’s hard for me to stomach. Also, he was a product of a short passing scheme (West Coast offense), as well as surrounded by an incredibly defense led by Reggie White. Favre won one Super Bowl and it came with the Packers has the best defense in the league. Favre deserves to be somewhere in the top 25 quarterbacks; unfortunately too many want to put him in the top 10 and that’s not accurate.
2. Bernie Kosar
Cleveland Browns fans are the worst, am I right? Bernie Kosar may be the best player in Browns history, but that says more about the organization than it does about Kosar. Anyone who puts Kosar anywhere near “good” needs to take a look at his numbers. Kosar was not a good quarterback and was definitely not great. His career numbers are 124 touchdowns and 87 interceptions. Only Cleveland would keep Kosar around and how does he repay them? Kosar can now be heard trashing the Cleveland organization. Just a terrible franchise that overrates a quarterback whose career numbers compare to Jake Plummer.
1. Joe Namath
Joe Namath is a very famous quarterback. One of the most famous of all time, but that doesn’t mean he was that great of a quarterback. Part of this is because he played in New York and because of this attracted extra attention. If this list is greatest QB nicknames of all time then Namath would near the top (“Broadway Joe” is hard to beat). However, a career 50 percent completion rate and overall quarterback ranking of 65 is terrible. Namath’s greatest achievements (in order): Guaranteeing a Super Bowl III win, his sideline fur coat and his drunken kiss proposal to Suzy Kolber. His football skills do not crack even the top 3.